Return Of The SE-R Project
(Cory Crelan returns, with more SE-R mayhem — JB)
The plan was a simple one- sell Sentra SE-R #1 and keep the SCC project Sentra SE-R. A bout of bad indigestion was a good comparison to what happened next… just when you thought it was over there was another cramp, pain in the gut, or worse.
I mentioned in installment one that I had previously owned a b13 Sentra SE-R. Over time, I had forgotten one beguiling aspect about these cars. They have absolutely no resale value! Universal acclaim in the press, four years on Car and Driver’s Ten Best, and being one of the best front wheel drive cars ever made — it does little to get people to shell out much money for these cars or their parts. It is all the more puzzling given the rarity of clean and un-rusted examples available some twenty-odd years later.
At any given day, you might see fewer than twenty up for sale across Craigslist across the entire country. Everyone who watches the Velocity Channel probably believes that rare cars are valuable. I can unequivocally say this is not true. In this case, it makes the car more of a cult classic. It may take these cars another ten to fifteen years to be worth anything close to decent money. Long-time cult classics Porsche 914s and BMW 2002s have finally started to see their prices creep up after long being considered cheap to buy.
The quickest and easiest way to recoup my money would have been to sell car #1 whole. I managed to get my sale for sale ad featured on Daily Turismo. A few weeks later, I listed the car on Ebay. The car fell well short of my reserve on ebay so I had to turn to plan B. The car had a lot of quality aftermarket suspension parts on it. Unfortunately for me, the number of people in the Sentra community looking for road course suspension set ups is pretty small.
Plan B involved me returning the cars suspension back to stock and selling off all the aftermarket suspension parts individually. My friend had a spare stock suspension and agreed to help out with the labor. I was able to barter the new carbon fiber trunk lid from my parts stash for his parts and services. I needed to use the carbon fiber hood because of the dog incident to the front end, but the carbon fiber trunk was easily expendable. A few days after hatching the plan, I started hearing some strange noises when driving the car around and decided to bring the car to my friends shop to be checked out. About halfway to the shop, the engine rpm’s shot way and car refused to go forward any more. I was left on the side of the highway with a huge puddle of transmission fluid and a car that would no longer start.
The car would turn over and almost catch, but not quite start. There were some pretty bad metallic noises coming from tranny area if when the car rolled forward. It was assumed the car would not start because it was somehow stuck in 5th gear and that the transmission was shot. The transmissions are notoriously weak in these cars. After being towed to the shop, the suspension was returned to stock. I found a buyer for the car in its current, assumed condition. Like I mentioned, clean rust free cars are hard to come by. The car was towed out to Long Island to the new owner.
A few days after the sale of the car, I got a call from the seller. He dug into the transmission repair and had some bad news. It turns out the aftermarket flywheel bolts had backed themselves out from the flywheel and had basically grenaded the engine crank. It meant the motor was more or less toast. I refunded him a part of the purchase price as it had assumed the car only had a transmission issue. I was able to get him in touch with another local enthusiast who had a spare motor for sale cheaply.
With car #1 down the road, I was also able to register and drive the SCC SE-R. I ran down to my favorite exhaust shop in the Bronx to have a new catalytic convertor welded up. The SCC car had not passed emissions since 2011. With the new cat on the car, it easily passed the state emissions test. The test is not due for one year and it will be the last test needed in state of CT seeing the car will then be twenty five years old.
The car ended up badly needing its front wheel bearings replaced and along with new rear brake pads. The aftermarket suspension on the car is really tough on the wheel bearings. I was finally able to get the proper alignment done, swap back in the aftermarket ecu, and advance engine timing from stock. The car really was running 100%. However, we were in the middle of one of the worst New England winters in recent memory so it was not exactly the time to go find some windy roads to really push the car.
I was then left with camber plates, big front and rear sway bars, and trick coilovers to sell off. Even though these were the best aftermarket sway bars made for these cars, I didn’t end up clearing much money for them on Ebay. I got killed on the coast to coast shipping charges and the Ebay/paypal fees only made things worse.
The final bout of agitation came with the final transaction of the camber plates and coilovers. The coilovers were unique because they utilized double adjustable koni struts which are normally found on much high dollar performance cars. The set up that I had originally sold for $2500, was homemade in very limited quantities, and was arguably the best set up ever made for this chassis. I listed them online in a couple places. Fall was not the best time to sell these as race season was over for the year.
In February, I had some interest in the set up and settled on a price with a prospective buyer. After taking it on the chin with shipping the swaybars, I offered to drive and hand deliver the suspension to the buyer. He was located about two and a half hours away. I loaded up the car on a cold Sunday and made the trip. The buyer inspected the pieces and offered me less than we had agreed on prior to making the trip. At that point, it was about fifteen degrees outside and I wanted to get home. I reluctantly met him in the middle, took the cash, and went on my way simply happy to be done with everything….or so I thought. The buyer contacted me a couple days later claiming that the two front struts were blown and the bearing in the camber plates had excessive play. Prior to the sale we spoke about how koni offers rebuilds on it struts so there was never a need to buy new. I’d driven on the set up for a couple hundred miles and we hadn’t seen any leaking fluid from struts removing either.
The buyer turned to the Sentra forum for sale thread to state his case and blow up the situation as much as possible. In the end, I sent the buyer a small refund and a note saying what I thought of his negotiating tactics.
Was it all worth this amount of aggravation? It is hard to say right now typing this. I did manage to achieve my goal of making the SCC sentra be essentially a free car. However, you really need to have a lot of time and luck that everything turns as planned…..no matter how simple the plan may be.
CriticalMass on May 14, 2014
I still have one, bought new in Feb., '92. The others come and go but this one stays. 220k miles, never raced, wrecked or modified as they say. SR20 engine still tight, sweet and entertaining. Rust, yes it has a little (two years in New Jersey before coming to my senses and returning South) but I'll fix that when I get a round tuit. I've owned somewhere near 40 cars over the years and this is the one I kept. Amazing really.
Sky on Jun 13, 2014
Sorry to hear about all the problems with both cars. When I heard the OP was going to strip and sell the suspension on #1 I just had a SMH moment given the low-baller community of SE-R enthusiasts, that's not going to end well, the parts are worn and a real PITA to maintain (e.g. new pillow mount bearings, new strut innards). Completely unsurprising that was not a financial gain and probably quite aggravating. They're very fun cars to drive, just the reality of using one as a daily is you should expect a few breakdowns and expect to work on them a fair amount, though things like the flywheel problem that's just bad parts/assembly technique and bad luck all rolled into one! TBH the lack of crash-worthiness and no airbags etc would prevent me from owning another one, especially living now in a no-salt state where cars seem to live essentially forever I'd probably opt for something else like a rust-free E30, which are here in abundance! :D
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